What’s Your Word of the Year?

Choosing a word of the year is something artists love to do; it signals an intention and provides focus for the year ahead. In the January/February 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, we asked our readers to send us their word of the year interpreted in mixed media, and the results were phenomenal. Words like “persevere,” “reach,” and “possibility” were incorporated into handmade books, stitch projects, collages, and abstract paintings. The challenge inspired me to come up with my own word of the year, and to build a pop-up art journal page around it.

Why a pop-up? It adds such an element of surprise, and there happens to be a great sophisticated pop-up card project by Debi Adams in the same issue that you must check out. It reminded me how much I love making pop-ups!

My word for the year came to me in a nanosecond: strive. It hits so many key areas of my life, including my job (endeavoring to bring you the best mixed-media projects and ideas in every issue of Cloth Paper Scissors), my own art practice (being motivated to draw every day), and even little things, like remembering to be kind and patient with others and myself. Once I had the word, a pop-up seemed so fitting—it’s something extra, requiring more thought and energy, but with a huge payoff. I chose a butterfly as my focal image because of what it represents: striving to transform, to become something better than you were yesterday.

I started the journal spread by tearing pieces of torn book and ledger pages and adhering them with acrylic matte medium. I love this collage background technique because of the interest it provides, and the fact that you can minimize the boldness of the text with gesso or paint. When the papers were dry I trimmed the edges with a craft knife.

Collaging book pages for an art journal background
Never fear the blank page when you use torn book pages to create an interesting art journal background.

I chose gesso to knock back the contrast a bit, brushing on two coats of Prima Art Basics Heavy Gesso in white. Between the first and second coats I wrote some phrases in pencil to go along with my word—my cursive is exaggerated, so only I know what it says. You can also scratch into wet gesso with the end of a paintbrush to write words or make marks and designs.

Using gesso to take down the contrast on an art journal background
A couple of coats of gesso knock back the intensity of the print.

When the gesso dried I added some color with thinned-down acrylic paint in shades of teal (Ranger Dina Wakley Media Heavy Body Acrylic in Ocean, mixed with white) and green (Golden Artist Colors fluid acrylic in Green Gold, also mixed with white). After mixing the colors with water I dripped the paint from spoons down the pages, then used my fingers to add pools of color in various places. I mixed each color with a little Payne’s Gray to get some darker values, and added those shades to the pages as well. Spoiler alert: You’ll see more of these fun art journaling techniques in the March/April issue of Cloth Paper Scissors! Stay tuned!

Creating a painted background for a word of the year art journal spread
Thinking about how you want to feature your word of the year will help you decide how to create your page background.

When that dried I added back some white with an abstract design stencil (I used  “Let’s Doodle” from Red Lead Paperworks). I wanted the overall effect to be loose and somewhat abstract, as a contrast to the carefully drawn vintage butterfly illustrations.

Stenciling in white paint on an art journal background
To create another layer, I stenciled some abstract designs in white paint.

Now, how to add the word…I tried out a few hand-written versions and wasn’t crazy about any of them, so I printed the word in a cool font (Emmascript MVB Std) and turned it into an image transfer. After flipping the word horizontally in Photoshop, I used a Chartpak AD Blender marker to add it to the bottom of the page.

Creating an image transfer for the word of the year
For my word of the year, I created an image transfer using a blender marker.

To pop up the butterfly I created a floating (or table) pop-up for the butterfly, which allows it to appear as if it were hovering over the page. This is super easy and has a big wow factor. One important thing to note: If you’ve never done pop-ups before, making mock-ups is an absolute necessity. There’s no worse feeling than cementing your pop-up in a journal spread or card, only to realize it’s too large, not in the correct position, or doesn’t work at all. The time you spend doing this is well worth it, trust me. I speak from experience.

For the pop-up mechanism, create two open boxes from a strip of cardstock, making sure they’re exactly the same size. You’ll have to measure your image to determine how large the squares need to be. I first created a 1″-square box, but it seemed to high off the page, so I made it ¾” instead. I cut two strips of cardstock 1″ wide and 3 ½” long, marked the strips along the length at four ¾” intervals, and made the last one ½” (see ‘A’, below). It helps when making pop-ups to fold the mechanism with the paper grain; in this case, the grain runs parallel to the short side.

I then accordion-folded the strip at each mark (B). I reversed some of the folds to create a box, and glued the ½” tab to the first fold, using extra-strength glue stick (C). I made one more box exactly the same way, and glued them together along one side, again using glue stick (D). One other important thing to note when making pop-ups: Allow the glue time to dry and set. If not, as you manipulate the pieces they may come apart if they’re not solid.

Pop-up mechanism for a floating pop-up
Making pop-ups is easy, and creating mock-ups is a must!

I chose a vintage butterfly image from The Graphics Fairy and changed the color in Photoshop to bright pink, a nice contrast to the blue-green background. After printing it onto white cardstock and folding it in half, I glued the double-box mechanism to the back side of the butterfly.

Gluing the pop-up mechanism
The pop-up mechanism was glued to the back side of the butterfly.

When that was dry I glued up the two bottom panels of the mechanism, placed it in the gutter of the spread with the seam in the middle, and closed the journal. After a minute I opened it again to make sure everything was working, then closed it until the glue dried.

In addition to the big pop-up, I wanted to incorporate smaller flip-ups that would reveal my specific goals for year. I printed out more butterflies from The Graphics Fairy onto cardstock and cut them out, adding small tabs on the tops of the wings for the flip-ups.

Flip-up butterflies for an art journal page
Smaller butterflies were used for flip-ups on the page.

The backs of the butterflies were painted so they wouldn’t be stark white, and the undersides of the tabs were adhered to the pages. Here’s one of my intentions:

Word of the year intention on a flip-up for an art journal page
An intention for my word of the year!

For a thoughtful inspiration word, I think this spread is pretty fun. Have you chosen a word of the year? If so, try creating a piece of mixed-media art around it, and make sure to see the results of our reader challenge for great inspiration!

Get more techniques for turning flat paper into 3-D art in this blog post, which shows you easy ways to sculpt paper.

Set your goals for the year, and achieve them! We have fantastic books, videos, and magazines to help you become the best artist you can be.

Word of the Year reader challenge results in the January/February 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine
Make sure you check out our Word of the Year reader challenge results in the January/February 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine!
Inspirational Quotes Illustrated by Lesley Riley
Looking for the right words? Inspirational Quotes Illustrated by Lesley Riley shows you amazing ways to incorporate meaningful words in your artwork.
Joanne Sharpe's Inspirational Art Journals video
Joanne Sharpe’s Inspirational Art Journals video is the perfect guide to rendering your word of the year in mixed media, beautifully!
Folded Books and Paper Art: 14 Projects to Create eBook
Unique folded books and paper projects (including an awesome pop-up) are included in the eBook Folded Books and Paper Art: 14 Projects to Create.



Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques

3 thoughts on “What’s Your Word of the Year?

  1. I love the pop-up idea! My word for 2018 is Awareness. Taking time and paying attention where I’m at, savoring, appreciating, lingering…while mindfulness is the current buzzword, I’m adopting awareness – especially to that little nudge or voice inside that is usually right.


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